Have You Seen? {January 5th, 2020}

Last Week’s Theme: Party

How Has He Changed You? by Cosette Wang—”Growing up, New Years was always a holiday spent at my church where I would snack on all kinds of delicious treats and play dodgeball with the other kids I grew up with. Those were fun memories, but now that I’m grown up and live on the other side of the world, I have found that this final holiday of the year holds more meaning than playing games and eating. I’m not always the best at keeping New Year’s resolutions, but one thing I make a habit of is spending time reflecting on the past year. It’s been almost like a spiritual discipline for me to sit back and see God’s hand through all of the ups and downs of each season, how He has changed me and the places I find myself in, how I’ve been challenged, and how He has blessed me. But this New Year’s Eve is much different as we are not only closing another year, but another decade! Some of us have spent most of that decade outside of our home countries and others have spent time away from a host culture that our hearts deeply miss. I hope you’ll take the time to ask yourself these questions and even set aside some time journaling your thoughts as you reflect on all that God has done these past ten years.”

Blessed Is She {Choose to Lose} by Denise Beck—”All over the world ornaments are being taken down, stockings and Christmas décor are being closed in their rubber containers, and homes are being resettled to their clean and less sparkly selves. It is in this physical transition that we take time to pause and think about 2019. The losses that shaped us. The additions we will carry with us. Were there words spoken that will be on repeat in our minds as we strive to make 2020 a year of growth? I can’t help but think back to Mary as she recounts the year that changed her life. The year that changed the world. The year from which all time would forever be counted. What words did she take with her as she wasn’t allowed to return home? What encouragement did she remind herself of when she knew Jesus was not getting to meet her family or play with cousins?  Did she hear the words of the angel telling her to not be afraid? Did she hear Gabriel’s words saying, “You have found favor with God!” as she cried silently in a foreign place where favor didn’t feel so great?”

It’s a Party for Patty! by Velvet Ashes Team—”Patty S. was here at the beginning. One of three founders, she welcomed the unformed idea of Velvet Ashes, and applied her wise heart and attuned spirit to its formation. She helped give it shape and a name, invited others in, and guided the growth of a community that would ripple out around the world. Patty served in a variety of roles during her time leading Velvet Ashes — Editor, Writer, original Board Member and Secretary. She traveled thousands of miles to be at significant events in the life of VA, and made countless video calls work across time zones. She generously gave of her expertise in coaching to offer depth and insight to VA’s annual online retreats. These are but a few of the visible contributions she made; be sure that there are even more unknown and unacknowledged contributions because Patty serves without fanfare or pretense. Patty’s influence here at Velvet Ashes will outlast her because she has worked faithfully and diligently from her vibrant connection to Christ, the Vine. The endeavors to which she dedicates herself thrive, and we are fortunate to have been one of them.”

Party to Celebrate Community by Emily Jackson—”When’s the last time you went to a great party? I mean, a really great party? One you spent weeks preparing for – thinking of what to wear, picking out the right present, maybe even helping to plan the food and decorations. A party that lasted long into the night and was talked about for weeks afterwards. For me, it was a quinceanera a few years ago. Our Brazilian friends’ daughter was turning fifteen and they weren’t about to let the fact that they lived in China stop them from throwing a proper full-blown Brazilian quinceanera. They prepared for the event for months, picking out the venue, the menu, the favors, the cake. There were gorgeous invitations and stunning special-order dresses. They had friends and family in Brazil record video messages for their daughter. Every detail was planned with care and attention (and sometimes stress and hand-wringing). We guests also had preparations of our own. We were picking out gifts, figuring out formal attire in a land where women’s shoe sizes stop around US 7, and booking hotel rooms. Everyone was looking forward to the big night. When it finally arrived, the party was non-stop fun. There was dinner and dancing late into the night. Everyone looked fabulous. For weeks afterwards, we looked at photos of the night. It was an epic party that none of us will forget.”

Free To Celebrate {The Grove: Party} by Bayta Schwarz—”Picture this. It is a cold December night in Berlin. Suddenly, as if on cue, people stream out from every building onto the streets. Most of them are armed with champagne and lots of fireworks. For a good half hour, it’s as if the whole city explodes. It’s midnight but the sky is brightly lit and it’s hard to know where to look first. Are you with me? Are you picturing the scene? Ok, try again. Whatever you saw in your imagination likely wasn’t loud enough, crazy enough, scary enough, or breath-taking enough. Oh the fun it is to experience this with someone who has never spent New Year’s Eve in Germany! We try to prepare people, to tell them what to expect. But invariably, when midnight strikes, it goes far beyond anything they imagined! It seems all the cultural norms they had learned (like being quiet in public, not striking up conversations with strangers, not littering) no longer apply. The whole city, the whole country, is partying! I always find it a bit jarring to go from a quiet, contemplative few days (in German, there is even an expression for it – “zwischen den Jahren,” meaning “between the years”) to that. And then, within a day or two, back to normal life.”

From Around the Web

Need a way to reflect on 2019 and prepare well for 2020? Check out the new challenge from Global Trellis.

Christmas Around the World

Remembering His Faithfulness this Year

Finally, A Blessing for the New Year

And Now For Next Week

The theme is…

Where are you going?

This might be a greeting local friends call out as you pass by, a question you ask your children as they run out of the house, or a phrase that hits you as you forget why you entered a room.

Is it a question you are asking related to your spiritual life?

As you think about the start of a new year and new decade, how are you journeying with God and toward God? What intentional steps are you taking?

We want to start off the new year with care and purpose, spending time in reflection as well as celebrating in hope for what God might do this year. We would love to hear your thoughts and dreams and plans!

Join us in the blog posts this week as we center around the theme of pilgrimage. Share your pictures and stories with us on Instagram using the hashtag #VelvetAshesPilgrimage.

We want to get you all the great content but also don’t want to overwhelm you! Starting this week, you will notice one less blog post each week (the Wednesday evening/Thursday post). Use this time to catch up on reading or use it to spend more time reflecting on each week’s theme.  

Thank you for helping us start off 2020 with some great conversation!

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